Goodbye Bristol! Bonjour Normandy!
We left Bristol last week at 7am with my parents waving us off (very bleary eyed, but they had managed to dress, thank god). The drive to Dover was everything we didn’t expect. No traffic, no queues, no hold ups (even round the M25) and so we turned up, as usual, far too early. This gave us a chance to put our stickers onto the headlights for preparation of driving on the right and generally congratulate ourselves on making it to the port!
P&O whisked us to Calais in an hour and a half. Rather a boring crossing compared to my usual excitement on the CalMac ferries in Scotland. A small bob about, almost empty of passengers, 80’s themed carpets throughout and we were there. My best friend Milly had suggested that within 10 minutes of disembarking in France Paul and I would, without a doubt, have an argument. We lasted 7 minutes but by 10 minutes we were friends again. Paul is doing most of the driving on this trip for various reasons including; my pure fear of driving in a right hand drive van on the right hand side of the road; my pure genius navigation skills; and my ability to be in France while my driving licence is in Glasgow.
We took the coast road from Calais west for an hour and stayed at a small campsite in the beautiful seaside village of Hardelot. Great name. We explored a little of the coastline the following morning before heading west again to Normandy. This time using a mixture of toll-road motorways and A roads. Every time we pull up to or out of a junction it’s now become second nature to sing ‘Right, right, right’ in unison and so far we have managed to keep to the correct side of the road.
The journey was so warm with blue skies and light winds and we sailed down the coast. Coming to the small village of Saint-Fromond (about 20-30 minutes south of the Normandy beaches) in the late afternoon. I’d found us a few nights camping at the La Rougerie Ferme. A small farm with donkeys, geese, goats and beautiful old oak trees. We were the only ‘campers’ and parked up under too particularly wise and mighty looking oaks. The website www.campinmygarden.com is worth a look. This was a gem. We felt so at home and wanted to explore the area a bit more so we booked in for 3 nights.
For me, I like to explore an area and not just ‘see it’ quickly. I want to cycle on the little lanes, find small villages or bakeries, interpretation boards that make me cry (which almost every single one around the Pointe du Hoc and Normandy beaches did) and feel like I know the area more than I would just seeing the main tourist sites. From the two bike rides we did, it seems beautiful and perfect cycling country and a return more in depth trip will surely be planned.
After 4 days we drove south for a few hours to the Forêt d’Écouves and found a small empty campsite (coming out of season means the pitches are almost half price, you have the site and facilities pretty much all to yourselves and we still have the benefit of electric hook up). I am sure on this trip there will be days we find a wild spot and just pull up but I like the option of the heater (as the nights so far have been cold), fridge with my chilled wine, cheese and milk and proper lamps so we can read into the night.
And then we had a minor blip. A problem with the van the VW dealer in nearby Alençon advised would cost us around £4000. An issue we knew we could sort out in the UK for around £400. So I am writing this at my parent’s house, back in Bristol. The van is fixed, running better than ever and booked back on the Poole to Cherbourg ferry for tomorrow morning to continue the adventure!
Photos: All taken on a compact Pentax Espio 120 35mm film camera with Fuji 400 film.